By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine
It was impressive, diverse, and inclusive. Khaleel Anderson is the kid from the block that went on to win an Assembly seat in District 31, in the Rockaways. In so doing, he became the youngest African-American in New York to be elected to the Assembly. He had to fight the machine candidate and he did so with all hands on-deck, particularly with the youths.
One of the first things Khaleel did after his victory, was to reach out to Richmond Hill, and Ozone Park, for a listening tour. It became clear, after a few questions, that the Assemblyman had to act. He has to date sponsored or co-sponsored a number of laws to improve the welfare of the community.
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in March 2021, Khaleel had his inauguration ceremony. It was held at the Macedonian Temple in Far Rockaway, New York. The benediction was given by members of different faiths. They included Pandit Shekhar Persaud of the Durga Temple Sai Gurukul, Imam Ahmad Hamid of Nur-ul-Islam, Rev. Evan Gray, and Harpreet Toor from the Sikh community. Pandit Keran Dalliphcharnd, of Sai Gurukul, also gave his good wishes to the event. The speakers were drawn from a cross-section of the community. US Senator Chuck Schumer said that District Assembly 31 is lucky to have Khaleel Anderson as its member. According to Mr. Schumer, ‘Khaleel grew up in the area and went to school there. He finished his Master’s Degree at Queens College and organized to improve education in the Rockaways. He carried this strength to that call in this room. In the next chapter, he will be sworn in as the duly elected representative of the 31st Assembly District.’
Mr. Schumer also praised Khaleel’s family for their support and then he touched on the American democratic system. He said that in every November there is an election in America, and the results are respected with quiet dignity. Mr. Schumer added, ‘Contrast that to what happened on January 6, 2021 where we had an insurrection in Washington. The real America is not there, but here, where we peacefully pass the torch. Those insurrectionists have failed and we have succeeded in helping the people with the stimulus payments and the vaccines.’
Congressman Gregory Meeks, of the 5th Congressional District, administered the oath of office to Khaleel. He congratulated the Assembly-member for an excellent campaign. Khaleel is a dynamite young man, says Mr. Meeks, that will rise to the highest levels in government. These views were echoed by State Senator James Sanders. He said that many political movements were founded in the Rockaways. Khaleel was created in two pandemics, one that is known as racism, and the other is the current health crisis. Mr. Sanders added that young people should make good noise and do the impossible. James Vacca was Khaleel’s teacher at Queens College, and he praised the young man for his enquiring mind and helpful attitude. Another speaker was Dr. Dhanpaul Narine. In his remarks he said:
“Martin Luther King said that the time is always right to do what is right. We are confident that Khaleel will do what is right. There are many causes in which you can lend your voice, and in which you can become active. There is gender justice that is a pressing issue in Queens. Then there is immigration. We know that your dad Ansu came here from Liberia to follow the American Dream. He worked hard and became an organizer for the National Health Care Workers Union 1199, while your mom Ronique worked for ACORN and advocated for the less privileged. You were able to sit at the feet of your parents and to see advocacy in action. We know you will work to bring change in immigration.
You also did something that might be considered as revolutionary. You reached out to Guyana, in the form of Tanagra Bledman and Mone’t Schultz who directed your campaign all the way to victory, and with 88 percent of the votes cast!
As we meet, America is reeling from the effects of race hate. We do not want to return to the days of internment. Asian-Americans have the right, like anyone else, to live in freedom, to pay their taxes and to pursue the American Dream peacefully. I say ‘stop the hate’, let our words come from the depth of truth, as Rabindranath Tagore says.
We know why the caged bird sings. It wants an end to discrimination. It wants to see a peaceful world. It wants a community that is united in its resolve to protect the environment. It wants unity in diversity. It wants our classrooms to be cradles for peaceful change. Let’s acknowledge our teachers, and principals, and the parents, that have had to make so much sacrifice during the lockdown.
And so, Assemblyman Khaleel, we wish you well. We know that you will shake up Albany, and keep your fingers on the pulse of your community. We are confident, in these unpredictable times, that you will use the healing powers of reason and moderation to fight the poison of extremism. You have the common touch and you are a good listener.’
There were messages from Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, District Leader Richard David, and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and others.
Khaleel, in his reply, thanked his parents, the extended family and the community. He said that if you want to go far, you should go together. He will work to deliver services and he will always fight for a District that is hungry for leadership. ‘I exist to serve you, and not to be a bureaucrat,’ he said. There was a minute’s silence for those that lost their lives in the pandemic.
Khaleel said that his campaign was about inclusion and he asked that people invest in the collective community and that he welcomed feedback.